Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why We Choose What Parts of the Bible We Want to Believe and Obey

As Christians, we all have a tendency to pick and choose which parts of the bible we like the best, which parts we want to interpret literally, and which parts we are going to obey. We also inconsistently follow some things that are modeled in scripture, but not others. We all tend to have a blind eye, liking what makes us comfortable rather than accepting the full truth of God's word.

This tendency to pick and choose what we want to believe has led to numerous denominations, debates, arguments, and and splinterings among Christian brothers and sisters. We all seem to be sure that we are right and others are wrong. We don't strive for unity as described by Jesus in John 17.

We pick and choose what we want to believe about:

bible versions
the Lord's Supper
women's role in ministry
church government
family integration
youth ministry
pastoral ministry
etc., etc., etc., and etc.

We disagree on all these things relating to God and church because (at least much of the time) we interpret scripture the way we want to instead of letting the text speak plainly. Certainly there are times when we disagree based on an honest reading of the biblical text; however, much of the time we make the bible say what we want it to instead of giving it a fair reading.

Why do we do this?

We do it because we are sinful. We are fallen creatures with imperfect spiritual discernment. Although redeemed, we still have remaining sin that clouds both our judgment and interpretation of the bible. This sin causes us to care about self first. Therefore, we sometimes see what we want to see instead of what is in the scriptures.

What I am referring to above generally does not pertain to what we might call "first-order doctrines." These are beliefs that the bible indicates we must hold in order to be saved (such as the divinity of Jesus Christ, the sinfulness of man, and the substitutionary atonement of Christ). Instead, we tend to separate over non-salvation related issues (both beliefs and practices).

We tend to be quick to say that we are correct and other Christians are incorrect. Simply put, we are certain that we are right, and they are wrong.

We could all use a healthy dose of humility concerning the issues we disagree upon. For example, I ought to be humble about my belief in believer's baptism. Why? There are many wise, godly Christians who hold to infant baptism.

Another example is my belief in God's absolute sovereignty over salvation. I must show humility in this belief. Why? I know many mature Christians who believe man has free will in his choice for or against God.

I both should be and need to be humble, remembering that I am sinful. This directly affects my ability to interpret scripture correctly. The Holy Spirit does illuminate scripture for us, but we sometimes allow our own sinful desires and motives to cloud our understanding.

Let's all remember that we are imperfect beings who, despite being made new creations, continue to want what we want. This includes how we read the bible.

Let's be careful in how quick we are to say others are wrong and we are right. Instead, let's be quick to unite with other Christians and slow to point out our differences.

We pick and choose because we are sinners. Let us all drink a healthy glass of humility each day as we approach the bible.


Slow Learner said...


Good post, but I disagree just slightly on one point. I believe it is right and good for us to pick and choose as God leads us in our consideration of the Scriptures. But, I also believe that, in spite of our sinfullness, our choices (on non-fundimental doctrines) can be just honest errors of judgement, and not always decided by pre-conceived notions or preferences. In some cases, in spite of our best efforts, because we are not infallible, we don't do the analysis well and so we don't choose correctly. And, as you said, we need to humbly admit to that possiblility. We also need to be ready to have fellowship in Christ with our brothers who have honestly come to another conclusion in regard to the particular doctrinal detail.

Eric said...


I agree that we do not always set up to prove what we believe. There are times when we really try to determine what scripture says, only to come away with the wrong interpretation. Why? Because we are fallen.

It will be wonderful to all be in heaven one day where we will have no more questions.